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Pyrrhus of Epirus [Kindle Edition]

Jeff Champion
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Pyrrhus of Epirus was rated by Hannibal as the second greatest general yet seen (placing himself third). Indeed, Hannibal referred to Pyrrhus as his teacher, although the two never met, since he learnt so much of the art of war from his writings. Pyrrhus was born into the royal house of Epirus, northwest Greece, and was a second-cousin of Alexander the Great. His mother was forced to flee into exile to protect his life when he was a mere infant, yet he prospered in troubled times and went from a refugee to become king. Always an adventurer with an eye for the main chance, he was deeply involved in the cut-and-thrust campaigning, coups and subterfuges of the Successor kingdoms. At various times he was king of Epirus (twice), Macedon (twice) and Sicily, as well as overlord of much of southern Italy.

In 281 BC he was invited by the southern Italian states to defend them against the aggressive expansion of the burgeoning Roman republic. His early victories over the Roman armies at Heraclea and Asculum (assisted by his use of elephants) were won at such a high price in casualties that they gave us the expression 'Pyrrhic victory'. These battles were the first clashes between the hitherto-dominant Hellenistic way of warfare (as developed by Alexander) and the Roman legions, and so full of tactical interest. He failed in Italy and Sicily but when on to further military adventures in Greece, eventually being killed in action while storming the city of Argos.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1942 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Pen and Sword (26 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,803 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

The photo shows the author conducting arduous research for his books while in Tunisia. Jeff Champion was born in Perth, Australia, in 1958, where he now lives with his wife Janine. After a wastrel youth spent backpacking in Europe, the Middle East and the USA he finally returned to complete his BA with First Class Honours at the University of Western Australia. He now works as an officer for the Australian Customs Service.

Jeff managed to overcome his mid-life crisis by commencing a part-time career writing about one of his main interests, ancient history. Pyrrhus of Epirus and Tyrants of Syracuse are his first two books. While writing these he was able to again indulge his passion for travel, using the excuse of conducting research and taking photographs of the ancient sites. This has taken him and his wife to France, Italy, especially Sicily, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia.

When not working, writing or travelling Jeff also enjoys playing tennis, watching sport, especially Australian football, wargaming, good red wine and reading history or crime novels.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ancient History's Forgotten General 16 Aug. 2009
By Kuma
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pyrrhus of Epirus was widely regarded in the Ancient World as one of the great commanders. Plutarch has Hannibal declare him as the greatest commander the world ever saw, whilst even Cicero praised his military insight. Unfortunately, Pyrrhus has become in modern scholarship something of a footnote, known because of the phrase "a pyrrhic victory" than for anything else (an appreciable irony is that this phrase was not used in the Ancient World as their preferred phrase was "a Cadmean Victory"). Pyrrhus probably suffers in mainstream academia for falling between the gaps of periodisation as a Hellenistic Monarch who fought against an Italian Pennisula based Rome and thus has avoided serious academic treatment, he also probably comes off worse for sharing Hannibal's gimick of fighting Rome with Elephants, sadly history only seems to want remember one Elephant Commander.

It is therefore good news for those with an interest in Ancient History that Jeff Champion has written such a solid work on Pyrrhus. The last dedicated book on the subject was Garoufalias in 1979, and this work offers a more up to date account and is highly accessible to a lay audience. The book is primarily a narrative account of Pyrrhus' career, and handles a good range of source material from Justin's Epitome of Trogus to Plutarch's life or Pyrrhus, Diodorus, Pausanias, Livy, Appian and several other ancient authors. Champion provides good authorial analysis of the sources (though on a personal level I feel he is a little harsh on Plutarch) and uses them to provides good accounts of the key battles at Heraclea, Asculum and Beneventum as well as producing a good chapter on Pyrrhus' time in Sicilly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He Died Young 20 July 2011
By Pink Fluffy Bunny TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
According to Plutarch, Antigonos, when asked who was the best general of the generation following Alexander, replied “Pyrrhus, if he lives to be old”.

From the author’s preface:
“His life would span the period of history known as the ‘age of the Successors’… The Successors were those generals of Alexander the Great, who would, to quote Plutarch, ‘carve up his empire like the carcass of some great slaughtered beast’…
Although this book is primarily a narrative history, any course of historical events cannot be understood in isolation. There will be, therefore, a number of short discourses on topics that are relevant to the general historical context of the period. Topics covered will include: the military developments of both the Greeks and Romans in the period immediately before Pyrrhus’ reign; short histories of Rome’s expansion into southern Italy and the conflicts between the Greeks and Carthaginians in Sicily; the character of Hellenistic kingship and the nature of the relationships between the Greek cities and the kings. This last theme is important in understanding the eventual failure of Pyrrhus’ expeditions to both Italy and Sicily… The first chapter will mainly be concerned with giving the background to the wars of the Successors and how Epirus, and more particularly the Epirot royal family, were drawn into these events.”

That basically sums up the book - it is a straightforward account of the life and campaigns of Pyrrhus. The chapters are:
P001: Epirus
P014: Exile
P028: Macedonia
P042: Italy
P060: Heraclea
P080: Asculum
P097: Sicily
P115: Beneventum
P125: Greece
Notes, Bibliography, Index – pp140-156.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pyrrhus of Epirus, by Jeff Champion 17 Aug. 2009
Pyrrhus of Epirus

Jeff Champion writes about the career of Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose battles against the Romans coined the well known term "a Pyrrhic Victory".

This book includes detailed descriptions of Pyrrhus' major battles and the surrounding historical events in a factual and candid manner. It includes maps, sufficient background information and describes the accuracy and context of the historical references, so that a non-historian can easily understand this work.

I highly recommend this informative and entertaining book for anybody with an interest in ancient history or warfare.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read - history as it should be written 10 Nov. 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a short book, but every page is packed with interesting historical events and facts. Champion strikes the perfect balance between providing the historical background to Pyrrhus' life (the few hundred years before it across the Mediterranean) and giving a narrative history of Pyrrhus' life. This is important because without knowing that historical background much of Pyrrhus' life would be impossible to understand and sound like just a list of strange actions by peoples with strange names. Pyrrhus' decisions are also hard to understand without knowing something of the background of the chaos and ruthlessness of the world of Alexanders' successors, in which fortunes rose and fell (and rose and fell again) almost overnight - and in which being able to change your mind and sieze opportunities was a matter of life or death for rulers and ruled alike.

While I know a fair amount of the history of the period from other books i've read i discovered many new and interesting things from this book - especially about the conflicts between Carthaginian and Greek colonists and traders in the period before the first Punic war.

Champion also manages to add many insights by comparisons between events in Pyrrhus' life and ones in earlier and later ancient history - from Alexander and Phillip II's campaigns before Pyrrhus' campaigns to Rome's conflicts with Hannibal, Phillip V and the Seleucids after Pyrrhus' death.

Champion also strikes the perfect balance between identifying the different accounts from the different historical sources - and the reasons why he's favoured one over another, on the one hand; and not interrupting the story with long, dull discussions of these details on the other.
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